Praise for James, Mission 'not scared' of Mansfield

BOSTON -- Some notes and observations from day one of the Shooting Touch Holiday Shootout at Emmanuel College:

New Mission falls to CTK, 'Not scared' of Mansfield: New Mission took on Christ the King (N.Y.), who is the No. 1 ranked team in New York City, on Thursday night, and got a smack in the mouth from a much more experienced team.

The Royals, led by talented guards Jon Severe and Jordan Fuchs, had their way with the Titans on the perimeter. Severe especially, had a huge first half where we saw him get points at the free throw line, score around the rim, and knock down a couple deep three-pointers.

CTK appeared to be benefiting at times from long misses by New Mission on three-pointers – more often than not, the Royals would get the defensive rebound, get an outlet pass to Severe, and Severe used his quickness to fly past Titan defenders and make a play off the dribble.

New Mission played a 2-2-1 zone to try to limit CTK’s talented guards, but Severe was too much, especially in the second quarter.

“If we did a better job of containing him things would have worked out better for us," New Mission head coach Cory McCarthy said. "They aren’t that far ahead of us, but in terms of guard play they absolutely outplayed us."

The Titans struggled early on, missing their first eleven shots from the floor, yet were able to keep the game within four points by the end of the first quarter, explaining McCarthy’s cautious skepticism. New Mission had a size advantage down low on Christ the King, a point that McCarthy emphasized before the game to his players.

“They played us well, but they just capitalized off of our mistakes, and that was the point of working the ball inside so that we can get back in transition,” he said.

The Titans were rarely able to get back in transition; Severe was a wizard in the open floor and had superior strength and physical ability to any of New Mission’s guards.

Going forward though, McCarthy says there will be much more of a point of emphasis over the next couple days on getting the ball in the post. And understandably so, the Titans take on No. 4 Mansfield on Friday night and Windsor (Conn.) on Friday, who behind star guard Jared Wilson-Frame is widely considered as one of the top teams in the CIAC.

McCarthy was clear that the 80-54 loss to CTK was a turning point for his team, and that the Titans would need to learn from their mistakes in order to stay competitive during the toughest three-game stretch of any MIAA team this season.

“We didn’t play well tonight, but at the same time, we’re also not scared of Mansfield," McCarthy said. "All I hear is Mansfield, Mansfield, Mansfield, we’re not scared of them, we’re playing them no problem, and it will be a game. I’m already thinking about them...They’re an in-state team and everybody loves them.”

If McCarthy’s comments are any type of foreshadowing as to the type of game we may see on Friday between the No. 8 Titans and fourth-ranked Mansfield, then this could end up being the best game of the year to date.

Romanko leading by example: Speaking of Mansfield, the Hornets had a tough game of their own on Thursday, taking on Amityville (N.Y.) in the opening game of the shootout.

Amityville, led by smooth-scoring guard Travis Dickerson, did a nice job early on of pressuring Mansfield’s ball handlers, jumping out to an early lead. But the combination of halftime adjustments and ridding of nerves helped the Hornets get back in the game late in the third quarter.

The game was back-and-forth the entire fourth quarter, ending in a 52-all tie, but senior captain Greg Romanko absolutely took over the overtime period, carrying his team to a victory over a very talented Amityville squad. Romanko did it all in overtime: he scored off the dribble, took contact and got to the free throw line, and even banked in a three-pointer; he scored 10 of Mansfield’s 13 points in overtime.

"He’s done all the little things we’ve been asking him to do, rebounding the ball, playing good [defense],” Mansfield Coach Mike Vaughn said. “He’s a big difference-maker when he’s playing in a rhythm, he’s a guy who early on [in the game] I was disappointed, but like any other high school kid he was able to pull it together and finish on an extremely high note.”

In addition to leading through his scoring, Vaughn also had high praise of how Romanko, and all of Mansfield’s seniors, have mentored the Hornets’ talented sophomores: the highly-touted forward Brendan Hill, as well as forwards Michael Boen and Ryan Boulter

“We have three really good sophomores between [Hill], Boen, and Bolter,” he said, “We’ve got good juniors, and we’ve got seniors who are playing this with everything they have.”

St. Anthony continues dominance, lauds James: Bob Hurley has won 69 consecutive games as coach at St. Anthony (N.J.). The nationally-renowned Hurley has won over one-thousand games at the Catholic school powerhouse, and it looks as if the Friars will be back once again this year with a talented offensive machine.

The Friars dominated No. 14 Brighton from start to finish, opening the game on a 20-0 run and gradually adding to their lead from there. Led by Oregon State commit Hallice Cooke and Temple commit Josh Brown, the Friars were able to wear down Brighton star point guard Malik James, making sure that he was rarely able to get an open look.

“[James] is an outstanding young player,” Hurley said. “We put a really good on the ball defender, Josh Brown, on him to start, and I told [Brown] that we were going to throw the kitchen sink at [James], and force the other kids to have to make plays.”

Hurley admits that his team had a long way to go after last season, and they still do, after graduating all-american guard Kyle Anderson, who is now making a splash for Ben Howland at UCLA. The Friars often relied on the talented Anderson to make plays on his own, but they will rely much more on their offensive system this year – a system that was flawless all game long against Brighton.

Hurley’s team is ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN top 25, but according to Hurley they still have some way to go in terms of making adjustments on the fly.

“When you come in and you don’t know anything about the opponent...When people switch[on screens] we have to recall what we’re doing, or when the shotclock is ticking it kind of speeds the game up a little bit,” he said.

Brighton finding an identity: Hugh Coleman’s Brighton squad has been an enigma this year, coming up with an impressive win over New Mission last week, but suffering head-scratching losses to a Needham team with size and a Charlestown team that is even more of an enigma that Brighton has been so far.

“We just have to getter both ways,” Coleman said, “[St. Anthony] got up 20 to zip on us and they got everything they wanted. We have to find where the holes are and try to improve on it.”

Brighton took their lumps over the course of their 78-42 dismantling at the hands of the Friars, but they will have a couple of great opportunities over the next couple days to prove that they’re the real deal. The Bengals will take on a hungry Cambridge squad tomorrow at the BABC Holiday Classic, followed by a showdown with University (CT), one of Connecticut’s most talented teams.

Coleman’s team has had identity issues so far this year, but he’s confident that this week can help his team establish that identity going forward.

“For whatever reason, we haven’t found that click yet, and we’re looking for it. We’re trying to see if we can use this loss as a launching pad and get re-focused for the second half of the year.”